February 09, 2019

The dual anniversary of Joe McCarthy’s “Red Scare” and Jerry Falwell’s “Purple Scare”…

Two notorious warnings about threats to the American way of life are linked to the date February 9th.

In both cases, the quotes generated national attention when they were reported in the press. But the results were considerably different.

On February 9, 1950, Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy made an ominous announcement in a speech to the Ohio Country Women’s Republican Club of Wheeling, West Virginia.

In the speech (online here) McCarthy famously claimed:

“I have here in my hand a list of 205 that were known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist party, and who nevertheless are still working and shaping the policy in the State Department.”

This quote was essentially the public launch of what evolved into an anti-Communist panic and witch hunt that lasted for years.

It was soon dubbed McCarthyism.”

That term was originally coined in a March 29, 1950 political cartoon by the great political cartoonist Herbert Block, who signed his cartoons as “HERBLOCK.”

Exactly forty-nine years after McCarthy launched the Cold War era “Red Scare,” national news was made by another controversial public figure who was trying to launch what might be called a “purple scare.”

The story was broken on February 9, 1999 in an Associated Press story written by journalist David Reed.

It reported that televangelist Rev. Jerry Falwell had announced that the children’s TV show Teletubbies was secretly trying to turn kids into homosexuals.

The comments by Falwell in the AP story generated a great deal of additional media attention.

However, they created far more eye-rolling, snickers and scorn than alarm. And, no official Telletubby witch hunt followed.

The AP article that broke the story said:

The Rev. Jerry Falwell is trying to out Tinky Winky, suggesting that the purple, purse-toting character on television’s popular “Teletubbies” children’s show is gay.

The February edition of the National Liberty Journal, edited and published by Falwell, contains an article warning parents that the rotund Teletubby with the triangular antenna may be a gay role model.

To support its claim, the publication says Tinky Winky has the voice of a boy but carries a purse.

       “He is purple – the gay-pride color; and his antenna is shaped like a triangle – the gay-pride symbol.”

Falwell contends the “subtle depictions”' are intentional and issued a statement Tuesday that said, “As a Christian I feel that role modeling the gay lifestyle is damaging to the moral lives of children.”

Of course, the fact that these famous/infamous warnings by McCarthy and Falwell are both associated with the date February 9th is just a coincidence OR IS IT!?! 

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